And Now We Shift Gears…

Last week we were camping in the mountains at an annual event with friends and family, trying to keep the focus on the moment, our surroundings, and simplifying. This coming week, school starts. We’ll try to keep the focus on the moment, but somehow school raises the level of anxiety and stress about 100 notches—which has us questioning (again) if the path we’re on is the right one.

Isn’t that the constant in parenting? Assessing and finding balance. What’s working, what’s not? What do you change and what do you accept? How can we get close to everyone being happy and content? What can we do now to help our kids be the most well-balanced adults they can be?

Sure, it’s natural to be nervous about school starting. Of course we all want vacation and play time to last forever. But how much stress should going back to school cause? If the stress is high—for both kids and adults—is that an indicator of a larger issue? We’re switching preschools for Aliya, partly due to cost, and partly due to the fact we weren’t totally in love with her other school. We think she’ll be fine with this transition, and although she’s displaying a certain level of nervousness, it doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about at the moment. The other two go to an International Baccalaureate school with a heavy focus on achievement. Yes, it follows the IB program, but they also extend the learning day (8 hrs.), have a short lunch time (20 min. to eat, 10 min. to play), add quite a bit of homework (~1 hr. for K-3), and will be issuing several tests that they’ve bought from the district. (They’re not required to do any testing since they are a charter.)

It’s easy to say, “Well, if you don’t like the school, switch.” The problem is, we do like many aspects of the school and the kids are able to think critically, read, write, do math, etc. well above and beyond any sort of “average.” They would probably be far above “average” at any school, but they are definitely pushed to their potential at their current school. Coming from my traditional background in schooling, this is appealing to me, it’s what I’m familiar with. I was often bored in elementary school (so I think challenge is good), and I also grew up through adverse situations making the idea of our kids being “different,” especially with regard to something as important as education, scary.

So what are the options? And how would they be better? What about homeschooling or “unschooling.” Sarah and I both believe that there isn’t one way to do learning “right.” It should be fun and that it can happen anywhere, anytime, and with a variety of activities. Much like when we were camping. The kids learned all day long, mostly unknowingly, driven by their natural curiosity in an environment that was exciting and compelling to them. We’re definitely just at the beginning of figuring out the best education path for our kids. Stay tuned and please share any insight in the comments below!

Video and pics from the 2014 Family Campout…